United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS
WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
an administrative appeal following the denial of the
plaintiff, Levern Andra Givens's, application for Title
II disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
Title XVI supplemental security income benefits
(“SSI”). It is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
now moves for an order reversing the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”). In the alternative, Plaintiff
seeks an order remanding his case for a rehearing. The
Commissioner, in turn, has moved for an order affirming her
undersigned heard oral argument on November 14,
2017. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's
motion for an order reversing or remanding the ALJ's
decision is granted, and the Commissioner's motion for an
order affirming that decision is denied.
district court reviewing a final . . . decision [of the
Commissioner of Social Security] pursuant to section 205(g)
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), is
performing an appellate function.” Zambrana v.
Califano, 651 F.2d 842 (2d Cir. 1981). “The
findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any
fact, if supported by substantial evidence, [are] conclusive
. . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Accordingly, the
district court may not make a de novo determination
of whether a plaintiff is disabled in reviewing a denial of
disability benefits. Id.; Wagner v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir.
1990). Rather, the court's function is to first ascertain
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal principles
in reaching her conclusion, and then whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Johnson v. Bowen,
817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987). Therefore, absent legal
error, a decision of the Commissioner cannot be set aside if
it is supported by substantial evidence. Berry v.
Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982). Further, if
the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, that decision will be sustained, even where there
may also be substantial evidence to support the
plaintiff's contrary position. Schauer v.
Schweiker, 675 F.2d 55, 57 (2d Cir. 1982).
evidence is “‘such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d
255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence
must be “more than a scintilla or touch of proof here
and there in the record.” Williams, 859 F.2d
April 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed his applications for DIB and
SSI, alleging a disability onset date of April 22, 2013. His
claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration
levels. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On May 3,
2014, a hearing was held before administrative law judge
Deidre R. Horton (the “ALJ”). On April 9, 2015,
the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. The
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's unfavorable
decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. This appeal followed.
accordance with the Court's scheduling order, the parties
have filed a Stipulation of Facts. [Doc. # 18-2]. The Court
adopts the facts as represented, and incorporates them by
The ALJ's Decision
followed the sequential evaluation process for assessing
disability claims. At Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date. (R. 18). At Step Two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff's chondromalacia of the right knee to be a
severe impairment. (R. 19). At Step Three, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments. (Id.). Next, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff retains the following residual
Plaintiff can perform medium work except he is limited to
frequent climbing of ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, and to frequent balancing, bending, ...